2008 California Proposition 5

California Proposition 5, or the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (or NORA) was an initiated state statute that appeared as a ballot measure on the November 2008 ballot in California. It was disapproved by voters on November 4 of that year.

Provisions of the initiative[edit]

Proposition 5:

  • Requires California to expand and increase funding and oversight for individualized treatment and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees.
  • Reduces criminal consequences of nonviolent drug offenses by mandating three-tiered probation with treatment and by providing for case dismissal and/or sealing of records after probation.
  • Limits the courts' authority to incarcerate offenders who violate probation or parole.
  • Shortens parole for most drug offenses, including sales, and for nonviolent property crimes.
  • Creates numerous divisions, boards, commissions, and reporting requirements regarding drug treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Changes certain marijuana misdemeanors to infractions.

Fiscal impact analysis[edit]

According to the state of California, the initiative, if it passes, would lead to:

  • Increased state costs that could exceed $1 billion annually primarily for expanding drug treatment and rehabilitation programs for offenders in state prisons, on parole, and in the community.
  • Savings to the state that could exceed $1 billion annually due primarily to reduced prison and parole operating costs.
  • Net savings on a one-time basis on capital outlay costs for prison facilities that could exceed $2.5 billion.
  • Unknown net fiscal effect on expenditures for county operations and capital outlay.


The official proponent of the measure is Daniel Abrahamson.

Argument in favor of Prop 5[edit]

Notable arguments that have been made in favor of Prop 5 include:

  • Prop 5 would reduce pressure on overcrowded and expensive prisons.
  • Prop. 5 creates treatment options for young people with drug problems that do not exist under current law
  • Voter-approved Proposition 36 provided treatment, not jail, for nonviolent drug users.
  • One-third have completed treatment and became productive, tax-paying citizens.
  • Since 2000, Prop. 36 has graduated 84,000 people and saved almost $2 billion."

Donors to the Prop 5 campaign[edit]

As of September 6, 2008, the five largest donors to the "Yes on 5" campaign are:

Path to ballot[edit]

The petition drive conducted to qualify the measure for the fall ballot was conducted by Progressive Campaigns, Inc. at a cost of about $1.762 million.[3]


People Against the Proposition 5 Deception is the official committee against the proposition.

Other opponents include:

Arguments against Prop 5[edit]

Notable arguments that have been made against Prop 5 include:

  • Proposition 5 has been called the "Drug Dealers’ Bill of Rights" because it shortens parole for methamphetamine dealers and other drug felons from 3 years to 6 months.
  • This measure may provide a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card to many of those accused of other crimes by claiming drugs made them do it, letting them effectively escape criminal prosecution."
  • Proposition 5 establishes two new bureaucracies with virtually no accountability, and which will cost hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.
  • This is a long law that changes many statutes that most voters will not even read in sufficient detail[6]
  • Addicted defendants will be permitted five violations of probation or treatment failures based on drug use, and judges will be unable to meaningfully intervene until the sixth violation.

Donors to no on 5 Campaign[edit]

As of October 16, 2008, the ten largest donors for 'No on 5' are:

Lawsuit to remove from ballot[edit]

Opponents of Proposition 5, including thirty-two district attorneys and former California governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, petitioned the California Supreme Court to issue a preemptory writ of mandate to remove Proposition 5 from the November ballot. The lawsuit alleges that Proposition 5 attempts to alter the constitution via statute, which is unconstitutional.[8][9]

The California Supreme Court declined to issue the preemptory writ. Generally, initiatives' constitutionality are not reviewed until after a vote has passed and the initiative becomes law.[10]

Newspaper endorsements[edit]

Editorial boards opposed[edit]


Proposition 5[14]
Choice Votes %
Referendum failed No 7,566,783 59.48
Yes 5,155,206 40.52
Valid votes 12,721,989 92.57
Invalid or blank votes 1,021,188 7.43
Total votes 13,743,177 100.00


  1. ^ "Sacramento Bee, "George Soros adds $400,000 to Yes on 5", September 3, 2008". Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  2. ^ Details of $5,000+ donations
  3. ^ Campaign expenditure details
  4. ^ "L.A. Now". The Los Angeles Times. August 27, 2008.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2008-11-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Sacramento Bee, "Our View: Judges believe Proposition 5's flaws are fatal", October 3, 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  7. ^ "PEOPLE AGAINST THE PROPOSITION 5 DECEPTION". Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  8. ^ "No on Prop 5 Campaign Files With State Supreme Court to Remove It From the Ballot, July 17, 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  9. ^ Calif. justices asked to reject drug initiative
  10. ^ "California Supreme Court rejects efforts to strike prop 5 from ballot. ". Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  11. ^ Huffington, Arianna (October 30, 2008). "The Battle Over CA Prop 5: Special Interests Overwhelming the Public Interest". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
  12. ^ Los Angeles Times, "No on Proposition 9", September 26, 2008
  13. ^ "Pasadena Star News, "Dangerous Prop 5", September 2, 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  14. ^ "Statement of Vote: 2008 General Election" (PDF). California Secretary of State. 2008-12-13. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2009-02-21.

External links[edit]

Official campaigns[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Basic information[edit]